Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Birding at Glastonbury

I am aware of the birders out there that like to keep lists. Life lists. Year lists. County lists. TV lists. Sitting-on-the-bog lists. I am not one of those people. I like drinking tea and growing vegetables. I like putting toilet roll tubes over a cats legs and then watch it walking down the stairs (you really have to try it!).

Festival Birders at the Jazz World stage

However, whilst at Glastonbury this past weekend, enjoying the sounds and sights provided by 180,000 sweaty and sunburnt revellers in deepest Somerset, I thought it would be a bit of fun to keep a list.

Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Song Thrush

Watching the England vs. Slovenia game

Ok, so it isn't the most spectacular of lists, but given the human population density, the sounds and some of the sights (would make even a male Dunnock blush), I think it's pretty good.

Since I've returned, I have been to Brook Vale to fill the empty feeders, following Ian Wolfendens suggestion to give a summer feeding station a go....should be ripe for another session soon! Also Moxey has done a couple of rounds for the Barn Owls whilst I have been away, we are now well into double figures!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Early Starts & Dizzying Heights

I don't get much of an opportunity to do much ringing during the week due to the teaching workload, however at this time of year I'm able to get out an do a lot more. One of these opportunities is to ring Barn Owls as part of a forty-plus years project here in SW Lancs. As the project has progressed, we have built up strong relationships with the farmers and they have a real loyalty to 'their' birds that has no doubt help protect them from egg collectors. We had a call from a farmer this week to alert us that he had a young Kestrel bouncing around on the floor of one his barns that had come out of a box. The parents had obviously still been feeding it and so we went along, ringed a brood of four and put the youngster back in the box. While we were there, we also managed to get off the mark with the Barn Owls.

One and a runt

Most ringers joke about their long suffering wives who have to put up with their devotion to getting up at obscene hours (especially in the summer) to go ringing. Tineke was working last weekend and wasn't able to come ringing at Brook Vale, so this week she was especially determined to get out. 3:30am the alarm went off and amazingly she came with, despite spending the latter part of the morning dozing while I took down the nets.

The Master at work (with thanks to PQT)

Unfortunately Moxey has buggered his knee. Or he has Lymes disease. Tick bites in Wales being the source of his suspicion. Anyhow, he hasn't been able to come ringing, but he did get down long enough to get his Fathers Day present. Naturally when I handed him the bird bag, he was expecting a White-throated Sparrow (the one on Bardsey was brought over in Nicoles suitcase) or a Lichensteins Sandgrouse - a rather big bird bag then. Alas, there was just an envelope with two tickets to see Crosby, Stills & Nash! I think I might be more excited than my dad!


Anyhow, the ringing was good with a lot more juvs fledging during the week, infact all the Chiffchaffs were young. There was a Kestrel around for an hour or two, sounded like a young bird with it being so vocal, a male Sparrowhawk was seen hunting over the reed bed late on. The highlight of the morning was the stonking (an official birders term for particularly magnificent specimens) adult male Reed Bunting.

Reed Warbler - 5 (2)
Reed Bunting - 1
Bullfinch - (1)
Sedge Warbler - (1)
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 4 (1)
L.T.Tit - 1
Robin - 3
Dunnock - 5 (1)
Chiffchaff - 4
Wren - 2
Blackcap - 4
Blackbird - 6

TOTAL: 38 (6)

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Review of the week...

With the World Cup now upon us, the end of my teaching placement looming and Glastonbury only ten days away, life is looking pretty busy. However, we've still found time to get out and about and do a bit of ringing. There is still plenty to do though and over the next few weeks, we will be out checking up on Barn Owls and also making attempts for Storm Petrels off Sefton coast.

Last Sunday we managed to catch six Lapwing chicks at Hightown, close to The Woodhams. It was an entertaining afternoon for those watching...I was the muppet running across a ploughed field - I must have looked quite a sight...

Monday was the first day of the final half-term of the school year and I wasn't really expecting to be doing much ringing due to all the marking that I should have been doing during the holiday. However, a young Magpie had managed to get itself trapped in the ventilation shaft of one of the fume cupboards in the labs. I arrived in school to find the caretaker poking at a 'Jay Bird' although he wasn't sure if it was a Wren - I didn't correct him.

By break time, I managed to climb within the fume cupboard and with some slight alteration to the fan, pull the Magpie out. To the delight of the Lab Tech and other teachers, I got my ringing box from the car, ringed the bird and off it went out the window of Lab 3, much to the confusion of the Year 10's trying to sneak a crafty fag!

With Soft Lad (my brother Thomas) getting back from Portugal on Thursday night, I dragged him out for a good old knees-up, which in Scouse Ringer-speak means putting up nets ready for an early start and then back to mine for a few drinks.

So off we went to Brook Vale, bright and early, Soft Lad and Hannah (one of Tini's curious friends) didn't even go to sleep, the madness of youth (!!!). With six nets set, we were hoping for a decent variety as well as some fledgling warblers. We weren't disappointed with three fledgling Reed Warblers, a handful of Sedge's, Thomas' first Bullfinch and a Willow Warbler.

A female Willow Warbler, not the best photo.
Reed Warbler - 6 (3)
Sedge Warbler - 3 (1)
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Robin - 2
Wren - 2
Blackbird - 2
Great Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 1
Bullfinch - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 2
TOTAL: 23 (5)

Hannah meets a Blackbird

A good morning was had by all, with a decent catch rate and despite the wind the sun was beaming. Hopefully the weather will be on our side to have another go next weekend and try a few different net placements!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Well Choughed!

On Friday 4th June, I was lucky enough to be invited by Kelvin Jones to head over to his patch to ring the remaining Chough pulli. So, bright and early, myself, Moxey, Tineke and Nicole the Pole (my new house guest from Canada) piled into my car and off we hurtled. I was secretly impressed that we were only three minutes late, so with the sun blazing overhead, we started our tour of the four sites for the day.

Start of the day, a monster trek up the Welsh Everest

Ringing my first-ever Chough

Two adults, one with colour rings (female)

A kiwi chick and a welsh chick

A canadian chick and a welsh chick

Chough, complete with inscribed colour ring over BTO (left), two colour rings on the right leg.

Over the course of the day, Adrienne proved a wealth of knowledge on the species and I learnt more about Chough than I expected. A fantastic day was had by all and we returned to Liverpool both exhausted and thrilled at such an amazing day. Massive thanks to Kelvin and Adrienne for putting up with all of our questions, hopefully we'll be over again next year.

Well Choughed!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Nest Boxing

It is that time of year again and the rounds of the farms have already begun. The SWLRG have been operating a Barn Owl Nestbox Scheme since the 60's and now, over forty years later, the scheme is still going strong.

Over the years, nest boxes have been occupied by Stock Doves, Kestrels and Jackdaws, with the later becoming more of a problem in recent years. We also have next boxes scattered around especially for Kestrel, Little Owl and Tawny Owl.

Whilst we are still a few weeks away from the Barn Owls being ready, we have already managed to get around and ring some Tawny Owls, Kestrels, Stock Doves and Jackdaws:

Jackdaw - 6
Tawny Owl - 2
Kestrel - 9
Stock Dove - 4